The world's largest pistachio & other weird road trip stops
From a full-scale Stonehenge replica to a beagle bed-and-breakfast, even the most boring stretches of highway hold unexpected treasures. Embrace the weirdness on your next road trip.
Some highways are punishingly long and boring (we’re looking at you, I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles). Luckily, America the Great has plenty of eccentric folks with equally eccentric hobbies, and they’ll gladly show off their oddities to weary travelers in need of some stretching and a bathroom break. The following quick stops are guaranteed to add a little roadside entertainment to those long, lonely stretches—plus, most of them cost pocket change or nothing at all (a pretty sweet deal, considering these unplanned detours often yield the trip's best memories). A solid indication you're about to see something gloriously cheesy? A humongous sign boasting: "The World's Largest [Random, Unexpected Item]." Hit the breaks. Whip out the selfie stick. This is going to be good.
Airstream Ranch - Seffner, Florida
It's like Stonehenge, but with Airstreams. Streamhenge, if you will. Situated along I-4 between Tampa and Orlando, the Airstream Ranch consists of eight classic trailers jammed nose-first into the ground to create a surprisingly picturesque Americana photo op. Frank and Dorothy Bates assembled the shiny spectacle in 2007 to honor the luxury trailer brand’s 75th anniversary, but that didn’t sit so well with neighbors who took the Bates to court for creating an “eyesore” that attracted too many amused visitors. Luckily, much to the joy of professional instagrammers everywhere and couples planning the retro-inspired engagement photoshoot of their Pinterest dreams, the hand of justice ruled in favor of the aluminum monuments.
World’s Biggest Beagle, Dog Bark Park Inn - Cottonwood, Idaho
The Trojans have their horse, the old woman has her shoe, and the 910 residents of Cottonwood have a 30-foot beagle named Sweet Willy. Why stay in a Motel 6 on your Pacific Northwest Road Trip when you could cozy up in a two-bedroom, canine-themed bed and breakfast conveniently located off Highway 95? Created and run by proprietors Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin, the Dog Bark Park Inn takes “being in the dog house" to a gloriously literal level. It’s comfortable. It’s quaint. You can stargaze from the second story deck. And it’s appointed with enough pooch paraphernalia to rival the tchotchkes of a crazy cat lady's home. Be sure to swing by the dog folk art chainsaw gallery and grab a sheltie or Boston terrier figurine to remember that one time you lived inside a dog for a night.
World’s Largest Pistachio - Alamogordo, New Mexico
Just about that time when your road trip co-pilot starts to drive you nuts, pull over for some nuts and a little wine tasting at PistachioLand (a 30-foot concrete pistachio rising from the flat desert landscape is a good indication you’ve arrived). Located off Highway 54/70 near the White Sands National Monument, the owners of this working winery and pistachio tree ranch claim the high desert conditions produce a uniquely tasty nut. Decide for yourself with a 20-minute farm tour, followed by samples of sweet and savory treats like Spicy Ranch pistachios and Atomic Hot Chili Pistachio Brittle. If super-sized produce like the Castroville artichoke or Gaffney peach really razzle your berries, add this blimp-sized nut to the bucket list.
Jimmy Carter Peanut - Plains, Georgia
Mount Rushmore is all right, but the Jimmy Carter peanut is way more hilarious, so it wins. Standing at 13 feet tall with no eyes and an uncanny (yet very intentional) resemblance to the former Commander in Chief’s toothy grin, this polyurethane, foil and chicken wire oddity is the kind of roadside attraction the world’s biggest strawberry wishes it was: Weirder. Whackier. More “this might haunt you in your dreams”-ier. Crafted by three members of the Indiana Democratic Party in anticipation of a 1976 visit from Mr. Malaise himself, the presidential monument stands near Route 45 outside Carter's hometown. Unfortunately, overly enthusiastic Carter fans, and perhaps also peanut fans, have gouged out bits of the sculpture to take home with them. If you stop by, give the fella a break and take only a photo (polyurethane tastes bad anyways, or so we’ve heard). Whether the giant peanut and giant pistachio hang out sometimes is unknown, but they should probably be friends.
Foamhenge - Natural Bridge, Virginia
Look out, Stonehenge (and Streamhenge, for that matter)—there's a another henge in town! Designed by artist Mark Cline, Foamhenge is a full-scale Stonehenge replica made completely out of styrofoam. The pieces are designed to match their heavier, ancient counterparts across the pond, and even aligned in the same astronomical positions—in the direction of the summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset. On an overcast day, even the most discriminating of your Instagram followers won't know the difference.
World’s Largest Basket - Dresden, Ohio
Many companies strive to really “live the brand,” but few actually “live in” the brand like Longaberger Company. Everyday, employees of this home/lifestyle decor manufacturer work inside a replica of their most popular products (the "Medium Market Basket," in case you wondering)...except HQ is about 160 times larger than what gets stocked on store shelves. That there are popular basket brands was news to us, but who are we to question a basket that could eat our studio apartments for breakfast? Swing by and see the seven-story office building at night for an extra dazzling experience, when the lights from inside twinkle behind woven maple wood siding.
Afterthought: If giants took over the world someday, they could use this really big basket to collect all the really big produce we mentioned earlier in this article. Just saying.
World’s largest frying pan - Rose Hill, North Carolina
From Washington to Delaware, six locations around the United States claim to be home to the world's largest frying pan (just pause and enjoy that, for a moment). But none fry it up like the tiny town of Rose Hill, which proudly declares its claim to fame twice on the community’s official website. Several times a year for various festivals and events, locals light a flame under their prized 15-foot-wide, cast iron behemoth, then fry up 365 whole chickens at once. With a population of about 1,600 people, this larger-than-life sizzle sesh yields enough poultry to feed the entire town. Rumor has it when the oil hits the pan, you can smell the fresh-fried aroma all the way in the Appalachians (maybe).
UFO Watchtower - Hooper, Colorado
Swing by this dome-shaped lookout post, gift shop and tiny museum in Colorado's San Luis Valley with an open mind and $2 for the entry fee. Surrounded by nothing but a sea of desert, the observation deck offers unpolluted views of the night sky and is considered by some to be a hotspot for extraterrestrial activity and sightings—owner Judy Mesoline claims to have seen several there herself. Whether or not you’re treated to a flying saucer appearance, a visit to this humorous diversion will leave you with some cosmic perspective (and probably a new profile pic for Facebook). When signs along the highway declaring things like “slow, aliens at play” start appearing, you’re getting close.
World’s Largest Ball of Twine - Cawker City, Kansas
That there are four—not one, but four—balls of twine between Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri vying for the title of “biggest” is another story for another time. But the one in Kansas has an ever-growing legacy: What began in 1953 as one man’s interest in beating the reigning record (and also just needing something to do with a bunch of excess string from hay bales) has evolved into a community-wide source of pride for Cawker City residents, who carried on the torch after creator Frank Stoeber passed away in the ’70s. Cawker City now holds an annual Twine-A-Thon to continue building on the fibrous legacy Stoeber bestowed on the town.
Chandelier Tree - Leggett, California
Four hours north from San Francisco and a short detour from Highway 101, the Drive-Thru Tree Park is home to a girthy 16-foot-wide giant sequoia with a hole big enough for a Westfalia campervan to drive right through. Carved sometime between 1936 and 1937 as an attraction for travelers and park visitors, the 315-foot old growth redwood is still in good health, thanks in part to its widespread root system. Experience the novelty of passing through this giant sequoia’s base, then continue exploring the park’s enchanting meadows, shaded walking trails and peaceful ponds.
Next time you find yourself on the road—whether for a couple of hours or for days at a time—keep in mind the familiar phrase, "getting there is half the fun." Hitting the brakes for the ventriloquist museum in Kentucky might be a total gimmick or entertainment goldmine, but either way, there's some memories to be made along America's highways.